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Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: What role does human experience have in our theology?

The Main Questions

  • What do you mean when you say, “human experience?”
  • What is the difference between subjective experience and objective reality? Is it possible to tell the difference?
  • Is experience a reliable source of truth? Why or why not?
  • Taking turns as a group, read through the section below called “Thoughts from Others.” What quote do you most agree/disagree with? Why?

  • How have your experiences shaped what you believe about God? How do you evaluate these experiences as viable sources of knowledge about God?
  • What is the benefit of recognizing the role of experience in theology? What are the dangers?
  • Is it possible to know God without the prism of our experience? If yes, how so? If not, is theology merely a reflection of human experience?
  • We’ve discussed four “sources” of theology this summer (Scripture, Reason, Tradition, Experience). How should the “source” of experience interact with the other “sources”?

    Important Scripture

    • I have been young and now I am old, / Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken / Or his descendants begging bread. // Psalm 37:25
    • When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it. // Ecclesiastes 8:16-17
    • Wisdom is with aged men, / With long life is understanding. // Job 12:12
    • I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; / But now my eye sees You; // Job 42:5
    • So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” // Genesis 32:30
    • If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. // John 14:7

    Thoughts from Others

    • I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about theology. Most of my knowledge comes out of my experience and the lessons in the Bible. // President Jimmy Carter
    • Theological conclusions are not just deductions from authoritative statements, but are worked out by worshippers responsibly engaged with God, each other, Scripture, the surrounding culture, everyday life, and all the complexities, ups and downs of history. // David F. Ford
    • Question. 1. What is the chief end of humanity?
      Answer 1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. // The Westminster Shorter Catechism
    • There can be no black theology which does not take the black experience as a source for its starting point” // James Cone
    • God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him. // Jürgen Moltmann
    • The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence. // Friedrich Schleiermacher
    • I now understand that I would never have been able to become a plausible critic of the absurdities of modern consciousness until I myself had experienced them. I did not become an orthodox believer or theologian until after I tried out most of the errors long rejected by Christianity. // Thomas Oden
    • If a man once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real… The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. // C.S. Lewis

    Resources

    Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

    Theology Crawl: Reason, Tradition & Theology

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

    The Big Question: What role do tradition and reason have in our theologies?

    The Main Questions

    TRADITION

    • How would you define “tradition” in the context of theology and Christianity? What is it and what is it for?
    • Can tradition be a source of knowledge about God? If yes, how so? If not, why not?
    • Name a traditional thought/idea/practice of Christianity and answer the following questions:
      • Do I appreciate this tradition? Why/why not?
      • Do I dislike this tradition? Why/why not?
      • Is Christian theology impossible without this tradition? Why/why not?
    • What are the limits of tradition for informing how we do theology?

    REASON

    • What does it mean for something to be “rational” or “reasonable”?
    • Can reason be a source of knowledge about God? If yes, how so? If not, why not?
    • Can theology be reasonable? If not, why can’t it be so? If yes, should it be so?
    • What are the limits of reason for informing how we do theology?
    • Are tradition and reason antithetical sources of authority in theology? Why or why not? 

    Important Scripture

    • Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you // 1 Corinthians 11:2
    • The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. // 2 Timothy 2:2
    • These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. // Deuteronomy 6:6-7
    • For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, / And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? // 1 Corinthians 1:18-20
    • “Come now, and let us reason together,” / Says the Lord, / “Though your sins are as scarlet, / They will be as white as snow; / Though they are red like crimson, / They will be like wool. // Isaiah 1:18
    • because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. // Romans 1:19-20

    Thoughts from Others

    • Faith is believing what you know ain’t so. // Mark Twain
    • Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. // Pope John Paul II
    • Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things. // Martin Luther
    • The true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor innovators, but men of tradition.” // Pope St. Pius X
    • To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. // Thomas Aquinas
    • Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. // G.K. Chesterton
    • Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. // Voltaire
    • Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it. // Reinhold Niebuhr
    • The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason. // Benjamin Franklin
    • No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. // T.S. Eliot

    Resources

    Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

    Theology Crawl: The Bible and Theology

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

    The Big Question: What is the relationship between theology and the Bible?

    The Main Questions

    • How would you define “theology”? What is it? Who does it? Why does it matter?
    • Look at the section below titled “Sources of Theology.” Are any of these sources surprising/troubling to you? If so, why? If not, why is this so
    • How would you define “divine revelation”? How does divine revelation relate to the Bible?
    • Are there other sources of divine revelation? If so, what are they?
    • Should the Bible be thought of as a “source” of theology or the “measuring rod” for theology? In other words, does the Bible have a unique relationship to Christian theology compared to other sources of theology? Why or why not?
    • Can a theological idea be “biblical” and not be found in the Bible? For example, the Trinity is a longstanding Christian doctrine, but the idea and concept is not found directly in the text.
    • Look back at the section below titled “Sources of Theology”. How would you relate the Bible to the other aspects of the quadrilateral?

    Sources oF THEOLOGY

    First described by Albert Outler, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a shorthand way of talking about the sources of theology. Outler argued that John Wesley’s theology was formed through a dialogue of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. Each of these facets, however, had their own level of importance and role in the formation of theology.

    Today, the quadrilateral is generally used as a way to describe the source of any theology. Though everyone makes use of these aspects differently, every Christian theology is sourced by Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason.

    Important Scripture

    • I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.// Psalm 119:15-16
    • This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. // Joshua 1:8
    • Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. // Jeremiah 15:16
      Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. // Acts 17:11
      Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. // 1 John 4:1
      but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; // 1 Peter 3:15

    Thoughts from Others

    • What has Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy, the Christian with the heretic?… After Jesus we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research. // Tertullian
    • The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. // Søren Kierkegaard
    • To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus. For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life’s dilemmas. // Michael Horton
    • I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man. // Abraham Lincoln
    • Theological formation is the gradual and often painful discovery of God’s incomprehensibility. You can be competent in many things, but you cannot be competent in God. // Henri Nouwen
    • One can be a brilliant theologian without being spiritual, and one can be spiritual without being much of a theologian // Don Stewart
    • We can no more abandon theology than we can abandon God, since theology is involved in some fashion whenever we think or speak about God. Consequently, every person is a theologian. The only question is whether we will be thoughtful, responsible theologians or irresponsible ones. // David W. Congdon and W. Travis McMaken
    • Theology is the grammar of the Christian faith. // Brandon D. Smith
    • The foibles, inconsistencies and humanness (of the Bible) all the more show us that the letter of the Scripture is not to be enthroned as an idol to be worshipped of itself. The letter will always kill. It is the spirit which God has breathed into his holy instrument, the spirit of his high Logos, this Word, that transmits its life to all those who obey it. // Michael Phillips
    • Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure, and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all moral and religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature’s night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free, unbiased soul is forced to raise the standard of revolt. // Robert Ingersoll

    Resources

     

    Theology Crawl: Environment & Cosmic Christ

    Theology Crawl: Environment & Cosmic Christ

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

    This week, we are talking about how Christian approaches to nature have led to the destruction of our environment and how better Christian theology can help us work towards the repair of our environment.

    Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

    ICEBREAKER

    • What is “nature”?

    HISTORY: LYNN WHITE, JR. & THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

    Lynn White, Jr.’s article “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis,” published in Science magazine in 1967, argued that mass destruction of nature by humankind is an unintended consequence of religious viewpoints of nature. In particular, the viewpoints related to Christian theology as they were frequently applied, or misapplied, toward dealing with the natural world.The impact of White’s writings on the community of environmentalists, philosophers of technology, and religious scholars concerned with environmental issues was immediate and long-lasting. In the twenty years following the publication of “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” over 200 books and articles used White’s ideas as a focal point. His ideas penetrated the popular press, appearing in TIME, Horizon, and the New York Times, among others. Below is a quote from the article

    What did Christianity tell people about their relations with the environment? While many of the world’s mythologies provide stories of creation, Greco-Roman mythology was singularly incoherent in this respect. Like Aristotle, the intellectuals of the ancient West denied that the visible world had a beginning. Indeed, the idea of a beginning was impossible in the framework of their cyclical notion of time. In sharp contrast, Christianity inherited from Judaism not only a concept of time as nonrepetitive and linear but also a striking story of creation. By gradual stages a loving and all-powerful God had created light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes. Finally, God had created Adam and, as an afterthought, Eve to keep man from being lonely. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his dominance over them. God planned all of this explicitly for man’s benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man’s purposes. And, although man’s body is made of clay, he is not simply part of nature: he is made in God’s image.

    THE MAIN QUESTIONS

    Historical/Theological Questions

    • What do you think of White’s portrayal of Christian attitudes toward the natural world? Have you seen these sentiments in any of your communities of faith?
    • Is the relationship between humans and the environment described by White how most Christians understand this concept? 
    • Is exploitation of the Earth a uniquely Judeo-Christian concept as White claims?
    • Do you agree with his argument? Why or why not?

    Contemporary Questions

    • Take a moment to read the section below (Theological Concept). Answer the following questions:
      • How do you typically think about the process of salvation?
      • How does the act of incarnation relate to non-human aspects of creation? Does it?
      • What does it mean for the “cosmos” to be redeemed/saved by God?
    • How might a cosmic Christology compliment other approaches to Christology? What does it offer? What might it miss?
    • What other resources do Christians have in their theological and Biblical toolkits to address environmental degradation?

    THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: COSMIC CHRIST & TIELHARD DE CHARDIN

    Cosmic Christ // a Christological concept which understands Jesus Christ as the origin, beginning and end, or purpose of creation. This understanding tends to stress the ways in which the process of salvation is oriented beyond human persons.

    The Christological conception of the “cosmic Christ” can be traced back to the Church’s earliest theologians. Irenaus, in Against Heresies, articulated a theory of salvation in which the entire created order was restored under the headship of Christ. Among modern theologians, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is most well-known as someone who advocates for this position. Below are few quotes from his work which summarize key points of the concept:

    • Christ is Part of the Cosmos – “Christ has a cosmic body that extends throughout the universe.”
    • God’s Love Extends Through and To Creation – ““Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic energy. Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.”
    • Redemption is a Cosmic Event – “Creation, incarnation and redemption are to be seen as no more than three complementary aspects of one and the same process.”
    • Redemption is Ongoing – “Everywhere he (Christ) draws us to him and brings us closer to himself, in a universal movement of convergence toward spirit. It is he alone whom we seek and in whom we move. But if we are to hold him we must take all things to, and even beyond, the utmost limit of their nature and their capacity for progress. Of the cosmic Christ, we may say both that he is and that he is still growing.”

    IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

    • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. // 2 Peter 3:10
    • The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the rivers // Psalm 24:1-2
    • Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” // Genesis 1:26-28
    • A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. // Proverbs 12:10
    • You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. // Exodus 23:10-11
    • But every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. // James 3:7
    • Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? “If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters // Luke 12:24-28
    • “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. // Romans 8:22-23
    • He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. // Colossians 1:15-17

    THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS 

    • Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?” // Charles Spurgeon
    • The gravity of the ecological situation reveals how deep is the human moral crisis” // Pope John Paul II
    • Climate change is an issue that impels us to think about God’s justice and how we are to echo it in our world. // Rowan Williams
    • We must accept that a number of conservative evangelicals, especially from older generations, will never support significant action on climate change, especially if it means signing a global treaty. // Lisa Vox
    • We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it. // Wendell Berry

    RESOURCES

    Theology Crawl: Environment & Cosmic Christ

    Theology Crawl: Sexuality & Abuse

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

    Happy 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment! This week, we are talking about how Christian theology has been used to justify the oppression and abuse of women and how it might help fight the oppression of women.

    Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

    ICEBREAKER

    What has the #MeToo movement meant to you?

    HISTORY: THE HAMMER OF WITCHES

    Religiously inspired violence against women has a long history in Western tradition. The witch craze of the 16th and 17th centuries was a prominent example. During this time, women across the Western world were rounded up, accused of witchcraft and often hung. The sexual dimenions of this abuse are not noted as much, but there is an undeniable sexual subtext that corresponded to medieval, and perhaps contemporary, conceptions of women. The Malleus Maleficarum, or The Hammer of Witches, was written by a catholic clergymen namec Heinrich Kramer in 1486. The book offers guidance on how to identify and catch witches. It also provides insight into how women were perceived by men in the early modern period.

    As for the first question, why a greater number of witches is found in the fragile feminine sec than among men… the first reason is, that they are more credulous, and since the chief aim of the devil is to corrupt faith, therefore he rather attacks them… the second reason is, that women are naturally more impressionable, and … the third reason is that they have slippery tongues, and are unable to conceal from their fellow-women those things which by evil arts they know.. But the natural reason is that she is more carnal than a man, as it is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives … And this is indicated by the etymology of the word; for ‘Femina’ comes from ‘Fe’ and ‘Minus,’ since she is ever weaker to hold and preserve the faith.. To conclude. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.

    THE MAIN QUESTIONS

    Historical/Theological Questions

    • How does the text describe women? What are some of the traits listed? How do women compare to men?
    • How are women sexualized in this text? How is that sexuality connected to witchcraft and faith?
    • How is this statement an expression of patriarchy (i.e. a social system in which power is held by men)?
    • How do you think this conception of women affected their treatment? How might sexual assault of a woman be conceptualized in this framework?
    • What of these views do you see at work in today’s society, if any?
    • Do any of the conceptions of women described above find justification in the Bible? Why or why not? 
    • Do you think there are alternate ways to construct a conception of women/femininity using the Bible? If yes, how so? If not, why?

    Contemporary Questions

    • Read the section below titled, “Theological Concept: Texts of Terror.” How have stories of sexual abuse in the Bible impacted you?
    • Does the Bible’s and historical Christianity’s context of patriarchy disqualify them as tools for combating the oppression and abuse of women (i.e. can either of these things help us)?
    • What theological ideas or Biblical passages can help us as we seek to address sexual violence against women?
    • In your view, what perceptions about women and femininity need to be addressed to halt the abuse and oppression of women in our society?

    THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: TEXTS OF TERROR

    Phyllis Trible is a biblical scholar who studies the Hebrew Scriptures from a feminst perspective. She highlighted four texts about the abuse of women in the Bible which she called the “texts of terror.” These texts are challenging in that they feature violence against women, but do not explicilty condemn it. Indeed, they seem to treat violence against women as normative. The texts she highlights are:

    • Genesis 16:1-16: Hagar, a female slave, is used, abused, and then rejected by God’s chosen family.
    • Judges 19:1-30: An unnamed concubine is raped by a mob, murdered and then dismembered by her male companion
    • 2 Samuel 13:1-22: The princess Tamar is raped by her half-brother and then discarded and left desolate
    • Judges 11:1-40: Jepthah kills his only daughter due to a foolhardy vow made to God.

     IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

    • As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. // 1 Cor. 14:33-35
    • There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. // Galatians 3:28
    • But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.// 1 Corinthians 11:3
    • Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. // Titus 2:3-5
    • Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. // Philippians 3:14 

    THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS 

    • Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature. // Dorothy L. Sayers
    • The muting of the #MeToos of the Bible is a direct reflection of the culture of silence at work in our congregations. An assumption is woven into our sacred texts: that the experiences of women don’t matter. If religious communities fail to tell stories that reflect the experience of the women of our past, we will inevitably fail to address the sense of entitlement, the assumption of superiority and lust for punishment carried through those stories and inherited by men of the present. // Emily M.D. Scott
    • No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin—because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life. // Gloria Steinem

    RESOURCES

     

    Theology Crawl: Environment & Cosmic Christ

    Theology Crawl: Truth & Gospel

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

    This week, we are talking about how Christian approaches to truth claims (epistemology) have fueled divisiveness and how to respond to contemporary challenges on the nature of truth.

    Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

    HISTORY: FUNDAMENTALIST-MODERNIST CONTROVERSY

    Note: Please read the first question in the section below before reading this section.

    This was a major schism that originated in the 1920s and 1930s in the United States of America. At issue were foundational disputes about the role of Christianity, the authority of Scripture, the death, Resurrection, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Two broad factions within Protestantism emerged: Fundamentalists, who insisted upon the timeless validity of each doctrine of Christian Orthodoxy, and Modernists, who advocated a conscious adaptation of religion in response to the new scientific discoveries and the moral pressures of the age.  In 1910, a wealthy Presbyterian layman, Lyman Stewart, the founder of Union Oil, decided to use his wealth to sponsor a series of pamphlets to be entitled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. Sent out for free to pastors and libraries around the country, the series criticised modern approaches to biblical criticism, science, and philosophy.  // Adapted from Wikipedia

    Use the rest of this section to answer questions from the section below:

    On Higher Criticism: “The qualifications for the perception of BIblical truth is neither [literary & linguistic] knowledge, but spiritual insight. The primary qualification of the musician is that he be musical; of the artist, that he have the spirit of art. So the merely technical and mechanical and scientific mind is disqualified for the recognition of the spiritual and infinite. Any thoughtful man must be honest and admit that the Bible is to be treated as unique in literature, and, therefore, that the ordinary rules of critical interpretation must fail to interpret it alright.” – Dyson Hague, “A History of Historical Criticism,” The Fundamentals, VI.

    On Modern Philosophy: “It follows of necessity that philosophy and divine revelation are utterly irreconcilable. The very existence of philosophy as an occupation for the human mind depends upon the rigid exclusion of every explanation of the universe which is not reached by a speculative process… The pursuit of truth, in order to be philosophical, must be conducted in directions in which truth cannot possibly be found. For the discovery of what philosophers pretend to be seeking would bring their philosophies to an end… Therefore, the moment one receives an explanation of the universe as coming from God who made it, he can have no further use for philosophy.” – Philip Mauro, “Modern Philosophy,” The Fundamentals, VII.

    THE MAIN QUESTIONS

    Historical Questions

    • Read Dyson Hague’s critique of higher criticism (i.e. a mode of interpreting the bible that utilizes historical and literary lenses) in the section above. Then answer the following questions:
      • What is the foundation of truth for Hague?
      • For him, is biblical truth different from other kinds of truth?
    • Read Philip Mauro’s critique of modern philosophy in the section above. Then answer the following questions:
      • What is the foundation of truth for Mauro?
      • For him, how does one arrive at the truth? Why is philosophy unable to reach truth?
    • What role does authority, if any, play in assessing truth claims? Why or why not?
    • In your opinion, why are things like philosophy and science often pitted against faith?

    Theological Questions

    • Read the section below and answer the following questions:
      • Which way of knowing do you find yourself most utilizing? Why?
      • Can Christian truth claims be made in all three ways of knowing? If yes, how so? If no, why not?
      • In your opinion, what way of knowing do most people use on a daily basis when interacting with the world? Why?
    • How would you describe the relationship between the Triune God (Father/Spirit/Son) and truth?
    • How would you describe a Christian’s relationship to truth? What biblical passages come to mind?
    • Can/should Christian truth claims about things like the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, the ascension be treated like other forms of truth claims? Why or why not?

    Contemporary Questions

    • Several studies have pointed out that religious people are particularly prone to conspiracy theories. Why do you think this is? What ways of knowing are at play in this trend?
    • Politicians, like President Trump and Vladimir Putin, have been accused of “gaslighting” the public. Gaslighting is defined as a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. Considering this definitions, answer the following questions:
      • Do Christians have a special responsibility to combat gaslighting?
      • What ways of knowing are important for combatting this practice?

    THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: EPISTEMOLOGY & WAYS OF KNOWING*

    Epistemology is the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity. Claims of knowledge rest upon “ways of knowing.” Four widely accepted epistemological categories of “ways of knowing” are listed below, along with some of their recognized advantages and disadvantages.

    Way of Knowing

    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    Empiricism

    Knowledge is grounded in observable facts; claims can be tested repeatedly; proven valuable by science

    All phenomena are not always observable; senses can be misleading; interpretation of data sill biased; masks subjectivity

    Rationalism

    Is not dependent on sensory observation; constrained by logical consistency; a common sense way of knowing

    Can be abstract and detached from experience; logica may be flawed; what is “logical” is not always agreed upon

    Authority

    Utilizes wisdom of traditions; recognizes the value of time-tested methods; can conserve our own effort

    Authorities can be wrong; authority is often just a function of popularity not wisdom; difference to authorities can hinder critical judgement

    Revelation

    Allows us to know things we have no ability to know; allows direct forms of knowledge; can produces affective knowledge

    Exists in personal experiences which are inaccessible to others; vulnerable to delusion; hard to translate truth claims; might be masking other ways of knowing

    *Adapted from John Ehmann’s Ways of Knowing

    IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

    • We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.// 1 John 4:6
    • Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, // Ephesians 6:14
    • The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. // John 1:14
    • For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. // John 1:17
    • Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free // John 8:32
    • But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. // John 16:13
    • All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. // Psalm 119:160

    THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS 

    • There are few things more dangerous than inbred religious certainty. // Bart D. Ehrman
    • I think a fundamentalist is somebody who believes something unshakably and isn’t going to change their mind. // Richard Dawkins
    • If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness. // Philip K. Dick
    • A fundamentalist can’t bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. // Jimmy Carter
    • How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?” Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.” A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. // Carl Sagan
    • Every fundamentalist movement I’ve studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced at some gut, visceral level that secular liberal society wants to wipe out religion. // Karen Armstrong
    • They won’t listen. Do you know why? Because they have certain fixed notions about the past. Any change would be blasphemy in their eyes, even if it were the truth. They don’t want the truth; they want their traditions. // Isaac Asimov

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